Tevita Siola’a was just 15-years-old when he joined his mates Sione, Sitiveni, Kolo, Luke and Mano on the trip of a lifetime – a journey that his since become world famous and dubbed the real Lord of the Flies.
Mr Siola’a was one of six boys who was stranded for 15 months on an uninhabited island in the 1960s and now his story is set to be retold in a Hollywood film.
Mr Siola’a told TVNZ1’s Tagata Pasifika he and his five friends’ journey began in the middle of the night when they stole a boat and set sail from Tonga for New Zealand.
The reason for running away? They had sold their school rugby boots and were afraid of getting punished by their parents for it.
So in June 1965 the boys took off in their stolen boat from The Kingdom’s main island of Tongatapu for New Zealand.
“We took turns driving the boat and there was a time a powerful storm ripped the sail and we used the blanket on the boat to sail,” Mr Siola’a said.
“I wasn’t scared because I was younger and much stronger, if it happened now, I will be afraid because I am older.”
They drifted for eight days, not knowing where they were and without food or water but there was never a thought of turning around.
“There was no attempt to return to Tonga because we already committed a crime, so we continued on to wherever we will end up.”
That ended up being ‘Ata – an uninhabited island located more than 100 kilometres south-west of Tongatapu.
The group abandoned their boat and swam ashore and after days of exploring they discovered breadfruit, bananas, chickens and the ruins of an old village in the island’s volcanic crater.
After six months the boys gave up hope of ever going back home as no one came to look for them. Instead, their families had held funerals back home.
As Mr Siola’a, the youngest in the group, was beginning to miss his parents, the others grouped around him in support and became his brothers until one fateful day in September 1966.
After 15 months on their deserted island, the boys spotted a boat and immediately jumped into the ocean and swam for it, calling out to whoever was on board to notice them.
Their rescuer proved to be Peter Warner, an Australian sea captain who was sailing around Tonga who took them home to their loved ones in an emotional reunion, although it didn’t last long.
Mr Siola’a said the six of them were jailed after the owner of the boat they stole still pressed charges, although they were later released with the help of Mr Warner.
Fifty-five years on and only four of the six castaways are still alive but their legendary tale is set to live on forever.
The story is going to be turned into a Hollywood by studio New Regency - the American company behind award-winning films like 12 Years a Slave and The Revenant – after they won the bid with “a low seven-figure deal”. The proceeds will be shared equally amongst the boys.
The survivors - Tevita, Sione, Mano and Luke - will be involved in the project as consultants as they want to keep it authentic and true to Tongan culture, Mr Siola’a said.
“Many people around the world will learn a lot from my experience they will be more aware of things they should not do and the things they should do, at the same time I don’t want to get too excited,” he said.
“I try and keep things normal and keep everything for God and we give thanks to him.”